I am asking about a Jew. He is 100% materialist, atheist in his world view.

He keeps the most basic laws of Judaism: keeps Sabbath (not so strictly as Orthodox Jews do, but keeps), doesn't eat pork and doesn't mix milk and meat. (I don't know if he has brith, but I am nearly sure, that he has.) Not every weekend, but he is a regular visitor in a local synagogue.

I think, he does it because although he doesn't believe the religion, he wants to honor his religious friends and ancestors. Furthermore, this is the way of life he is accustomed to.

I think it would be nicer if he would do what God wants from him. But, somewhere I've read, that Judaism is more like law as simply a religion. And he keeps the law on a basic level.

So, what will happen to a Jew, keeping basic laws, but not believing anything over the pure matter?

  • 3
    you sure he doesnt believe deep down?
    – ray
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 19:11
  • 1
    Your case is perhaps a case of a man who like to say that he doesn't believe and to act that he believe.
    – kouty
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 19:33
  • 1
    @ray It can be hard to say even from ourself. I am sure he is non-believer on conscient level.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 8:14

3 Answers 3


One who does not believe in the principles of Judaism does not merit the World to Come. This is stated clearly at the beginning of the chapter of Talmud that discusses the topic:

כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא שנאמר (ישעיהו ס, כא) ועמך כולם צדיקים לעולם יירשו ארץ נצר מטעי מעשה ידי להתפאר ואלו שאין להם חלק לעולם הבא האומר אין תחיית המתים מן התורה ואין תורה מן השמים ואפיקורוס
MISHNA: All of the Jewish people, even sinners and those who are liable to be executed with a court-imposed death penalty, have a share in the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “And your people also shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever; the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, for My name to be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21). And these are the exceptions, the people who have no share in the World-to-Come, even when they fulfilled many mitzvot: One who says: There is no resurrection of the dead derived from the Torah, and one who says: The Torah did not originate from Heaven, and an epikoros, who treats Torah scholars and the Torah that they teach with contempt.

The idea that Judaism is merely a religion of laws without concern for belief is a common misconception. As far as I can tell is that it comes from the Christian perspective that Judaism is a dry religion of laws and rote practice, which they believe Jesus replaced with a focus on belief. This is convenient and lazy caricature they use to explain why Christianity replaced Judaism.

The truth is that Judaism is an all-encompassing religion, that deals with the physical, the mental, and the spiritual aspect of people, as the author of the classic work Duties of the Heart explains in his introduction.

  • While there was definitely a later push throughout Prophets (long before Christianity) to keep the law with sincerity and mind the spirit of the law, and an even later introduction of fundamental beliefs such as Maimonides' 13 principals that everyone was expected to have, Judaism is most concerned with actions and keeping the letter of the law. That is not a misconception.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 14:11
  • Interestingly enough, this source specifies one "saying" these heretical beliefs, not just thinking or believing them. As long as you keep these beliefs to yourself, and don't "say" them, spreading them to others, it seems like you would be ok, even according to this.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 14:12
  • @BabySeal It is absolutely a misconception. The book of Deuteronomy as a whole is concerned with proper beliefs. As for the Mishnah using the term "saying", in the entire Talmud that term is used to refer to what a person's opinion is, not necessarily what they said.
    – N.T.
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 20:39
  • "As far as I can tell is that it comes from the Christian perspective that Judaism is a dry religion of laws and rote practice" I think you mean 'Protestant' (circa 500 years ago) not Christian. No Christians preached this strawman of Judaism before the Protestants. The New Testament is clear that all the Jews who were saved, like the patriarchs, who were saved by their heroic deeds, and their keeping of the law, were saved, ultimately, by their steadfast devotion (faith) in the God who gave the commandmenst and laws. They didn't just follow laws without moral concern (e.g. who gave the laws).
    – SolaGratia
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 23:48
  • 1
    @BabySeal seforimblog.com/2021/04/… Not saying it aloud may arguably prevent you from having the social ramifications of a heretic (invalid as a witness, etc.) but it won't help you in the afterlife.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 14:08

From the TaNaKH and from the Talmud, we read about these two ultimate "afterlife"-destinations, inclusive of a time-frame:

"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence."

(Daniel 12:2)

Death is like sleep. Just as we wake-up from sleep, we also wake-up from death.

Yochanan Ben-Zakkai said, "I have two paths before me, one of the Garden of Eden and one of Gehenna, and I do not know on which they are leading me;"


Dying is like walking, a continuous process of being, and therefore "after death" (upon the continuous process of being), we encounter a fork on the road, one fork leads to Gan-Eden, and the other to Gehenna.

Master of the Universe, You have judged properly, You have acquitted properly, You have condemned properly, and it is befitting that You have prepared Gehenna for the wicked and the Garden of Eden for the righteous.


This quote, from the Talmud, tells us the courtroom time-frame after death or "afterlife", there is judgment ("You have judged properly"), which either leads to acquittal ("You have acquitted properly") or condemnation ("You have condemned properly"). A sentence of condemnation condemns one into the hellish "Gehenna"-Destination, whereas an acquittal leads into the heavenly "Garden of Eden"-Destination.

Thus is the "afterlife" nature, according to Orthodox Judaism as fleshed-out in both the above sources from the TaNaKH and Talmud.

  • In a short answer, G-d never judges a person for what they didn't know. — Sourced somewhere.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 19:36
  • @TurkHill source please.
    – ninamag
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 5:06
  • Unfortunately, I am unable to find the source as I read it many decades ago somewhere. Be this as it may, the idea is certainly correct.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 4:09
  • @TurkHill I am not sure that "G-d never judges a person for what they didn't know", because in everyday life, that is not even true. If one truly believes that such and such action is not illegal (and it is) and one committed such an action, the Law will not excuse such a person.
    – ninamag
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 7:35
  • Although I agree that there is no excuse when you are aware of the law, you will admit that Judaism is unlike Christianity which sends people to hell simply because they never heard of a man named Jesus. I don’t like that kind of religion (Judaism) because it sounds good. No. It’s the truth. And the truth is the truth no matter what’s its source - Maimonides
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 19:18

G-d says, “if only Me they would abandon but My Torah they would observe.” This means that an atheist Jew who keeps Torah is a Jew in good standing in the eyes of G-d.

  • Is there a reason you needed to add a second terrible answer? What (wrong information) is this adding that wasn't in the first (terrible) answer? Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 1:47
  • @Salmononius2 The second was more condensed and more to the point (precise). If you think it's so terrible, feel free to state why and debunk it.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 1:59
  • @Salmononius2 G-d says, “if only Me they would abandon but My Torah they would observe.” Idk how you could say otherwise. Do you disagree with G-d?
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 2:01
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    (1) Where does G-d say this? (2) How do you deduce from the statement that it means to include atheist Jews? Maybe it's only talking about idolatrous Jews. (3) How do you deduce from the statement that an atheist Jew who keeps Torah is a Jew in good standing in the eyes of G-d? Maybe it's saying that abandoning G-d while still observing His Torah is just a lesser evil.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 2:54
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    @TurkHill Found it, thanks! However, interesting that you connect this Midrash to an atheist....
    – Shmuel
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 20:47

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